“Learning to Fly”
Isaiah 40:25-31

To whom then will you compare me,
or who is my equal? says the Holy One.
26 Lift up your eyes on high and see:
Who created these?
He who brings out their host and numbers them,
calling them all by name;
because he is great in strength,
mighty in power,
not one is missing.
27 Why do you say, O Jacob,
and speak, O Israel,
“My way is hidden from the Lord,
and my right is disregarded by my God”?
28 Have you not known? Have you not heard?
The Lord is the everlasting God,
the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He does not faint or grow weary;
his understanding is unsearchable.

29 He gives power to the faint,
and strengthens the powerless.
30 Even youths will faint and be weary,
and the young will fall exhausted;
31 but those who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength,
they shall mount up with wings like eagles,
they shall run and not be weary,
they shall walk and not faint.

“Even youths grow weary.” Some days, watching the children of Stone House Preschool, that is hard to believe.

A couple weeks ago, we were acting out the story of Jonah. I invited them to pretend like they were getting into the boat going to Tarshish and paddle with Jonah as he was fleeing God’s command. And as they did, it was hard to stop them for the next part of the story. They had energy to burn. And they were ready to paddle their boat all the way to Spain.

One of the most dangerous things I can do in our chapel services for the preschool is ask these young people a question. Because it’s never just one or two hands up in response. It’s almost every hand, because they all have something to share. When I ask the name of a brother or sister, they don’t just give that, but tell me the games they play together, the nicknames they have, the places they go. When I ask them about a holiday, they tell me everything they are going to eat, who will be there, and what they will be doing each hour of that day. When I ask them about a story from the Bible, they tell me more things about it than even I have remembered about the story, and I sometimes have to pause for a minute, to realize they have something to teach me. And when I ask them what they want to be when they grow up, some of them are standing up, jumping up and down, because they are so excited about their futures and can’t wait to tell me their hopes and dreams. The two minutes I schedule for the question time of chapel often turns out to be much longer because these young people have something worth sharing. They have so much in them that is ready to burst out with life, joy, and hope.

Our preschool is full of children with gifts, with dreams, with talents and energy, with minds that want to learn, bodies that want to move, and hearts that are ready to be shaped. And at times it can seem like there will be no weariness for them. They look like they won’t ever get tired. Like nothing will ever get in their way. But the Prophet Isaiah is correct. Life gets hard for us all, even young ones. Even these wonderful children will face times of weariness.

A few years ago, I got to witness a unique baptism service. Before the pastor baptized the infant with water, she invited the members of the church to come to where the family was standing and make a circle around them. And then, the pastor invited everyone, “If you have a blessing you would like to share with this child, I invite you to come forward, dip your hand in the waters of baptism, and share your blessing.” Coming from a more traditional Presbyterian church where we like to stay as an audience, I was shocked at how many people came forward to offer a blessing. But one woman’s blessing stood out to me the most.

It was a woman who knew this family well. And as she came forward, she said, “I offer this blessing for when times will get hard…When you have difficulty in school with grades…when you have a fight with your best friend…when your heart gets broken by a crush…when you’re scared about your future…when you experience bullying…when you think no one’s by your side.”

As she said them, I realized I knew each one of these in my own life. And as I looked around the room, I realized that everyone else did too. These are those moments that all of us, at some point growing up must face. And even as much as we wish this young person about to be baptized would not have to face these same moments, we knew they would be a part of her life too. “Even youths grow weary.”

But after she mentioned these hard times, the woman continued on, “When you face these, may you always remember this truth: You are a child of God. You make this world more beautiful. You have gifts and talents the world has never seen before. And you will be never alone, because you are a part of our family, God’s family. You will always be loved.”

It was beautiful, and completely unexpected. This woman wasn’t just seeing this infant as a baby, as she was now, but as the young woman she would grow up to be. She saw a whole person, about the to face the messiness and troubles of life. She knew she couldn’t keep this infant from ever experiencing anything bad. But she could remind her who she was made to be. She could share with her the promise of God’s love and fullness of life she saw in her. This child, she knew, makes the world more beautiful, more wonderful, more good, and she wanted to make sure that she never forgot that, no matter how old she got, and no matter what the world would threw her way.

If we could, we would choose to keep every child away from ever knowing pain or heartache or trouble or fear or loneliness in their lives. But we can’t do that. There are struggles that they will have to face. We can’t stop that. But we can do something. We can be a blessing to them. We can remind them of who they, and whose they are.

And that work of blessing happens each day here in our preschool. Here, children know that they are welcomed just as they are. Here they know they are wonderfully made in God’s image. Here their names are known and treasured, because each child has value and worth. Here their words are listened to, and their gifts are encouraged. Here they learn that they can sing, they can dance, they can write and draw, they can paint, they can make friends, they can pray to a God who hears them, they can tell stories, they can make mistakes and still be loved and forgiven. That last one is hard even for us adults to know.

God sees in each one of these children, people who are meant to fly, who like Isaiah writes, are meant to soar like eagles.

There are so many other voices in our world today, telling young people what they can’t do. Who they can’t be. How they have to earn love.

We are called to be a different voice, be a different place, be a different community. We are called to share the message of The True Creator, the Holy One, the Everlasting God. And that message is this: You are loved. You make God happy. You have something to offer this world that no one else can give. You are meant to grow and stretch and learn because you have something worth sharing with the world. Your dreams matter.

And all the work of our teachers, our parents, our Discovery Time leaders, our volunteers, our board members is for that message. So, when our young people do face those weary times, they will know they are not alone. They will know they are not nothing. They will know that their dreams and hopes, gifts and love are more powerful than anything the world can throw at them.

It’s not always glamorous work. It includes clapping hands and singing songs, changing diapers and picking up after messes. It includes getting paint all over hands and running after tricycles. It includes playing with scarves and teaching directions and being patient, when I can’t imagine where you get that patience and strength from. It is the messy work of love. And it is the way our preschool and church and families teach these young people that they are meant to fly. Amen.

At this time, I want to invite Diana Carroll back up and ask her to welcome each teacher who is present to come forward, while sharing what classes they teach.

-Invite volunteers and board members
-invite elders of our church
-Invite any parents or families of our preschool kids who would like to join in this blessing work

God of laughter and love,
We ask that you bless these teachers and leaders of young minds, hearts, and lives.
Bless their hands that wash and clean,
That hold hands,
That pick up and carry
That comfort and touch.
Bless these feet that walk and run,
That stand side by side with children,
That get weary themselves.
Bless these voices
That sing and speak,
That say words of teaching,
Of correcting,
Of encouragement,
Of welcome.
Bless these hearts
That open themselves to the lives of these children.
Keep them open,
So they may be filled with love and hope and faith.
Lord, we thank you so much for these leaders,
For their patience, their energy, their gifts, their ability to connect and grow.
May you lift them up as well,
As they serve you
And make such a difference in the lives of our children.
In Christ’s name we pray. Amen.